Today we awake, glad to be alive after Lupine’s brush with danger yesterday. The weather has been warming over the last several days, so we sleep without the rainfly on, and I awake to the buzz of mosquitos hovering around our tent. I roll over and look at them as they hover then land randomly on the mesh fabric of our tent. They are desperate to eat me.
I apprehensively rise from bed and am amazed that I am able to leave our camp relatively unscathed. We quickly pack up all of our gear then make our way down the trail, hoping to find a more peaceful place to eat our breakfast. When we eventually spot a large stone slab sitting in the sun, we branch off the trail and begin our daily regimen of coffee and muesli. At first, our place is peaceful, but before long the mosquitos have tracked us down, and we disappear under our bug nets.
Today’s hike is pleasant. We quietly plop along, waltzing through fields of Arrowleaf Balsam root. The leaves bustle in the wind, and I imagine the yellow flowers that will fill the landscape in a couple of weeks. Currently there are no blooms, just the cool green leaves accenting the trail like crops in early season. But we are not farmers, just passersby, here to observe the seasons change.
We admire the smoothness of the trail unfolding forward into the brown hills, accented with green leaves – a promise of summer flowers yet to arrive, all etched inside a frame of mountainous stone borders.
The trail rises upward and narrows along a ridge. The terrain is rocky but secure, with a steep descent to our left, reminding us to tread lightly. I stick close to Lupine, who’s still shaken from yesterday’s slide.
To the west, Upper and Lower Blue lake sit below us. They are a deep crisp blue, and I crave to sit on their shorelines. But, we are thru-hikers, and we must continue on. Canada awaits. So, as usual, we move on through, always moving northward.
As the trail becomes closer to Carson Pass and Highway 88, we begin to notice more people on the trail. A couple asks about our trip, and we stop to share some stories. Later, a hiker recognizes us from some Youtube videos I’ve been posting to share with friends and family. He will be hiking in the Goat Rocks Wilderness with Llamas in August, and there’s a good chance we will see him again there.
When we arrive to Carson Pass, we are pleased to find an information center where the volunteers have snacks: carrots, apples, Twinkies, and Coca-Cola. I eat at least one of each. One of the volunteers, a trail angel named Crazy Uke-Lady offers us a place to stay tonight in South Lake Tahoe. Her and her husband host hikers and even cook them vegetarian food. It sounds lovely, but we still have 14 miles to go Echo Lake and Highway 50, where we would exit for Lake Tahoe. But, feeling inspired by the generous offer, and motivated by the rush of sugar in our veins, we set out at 2 pm, aiming to get there by 7 pm. At that point, we will try to text Crazy Uke-Lady to get a ride.
Over the next several hours, we fly down the trail. The first section is fairly easy terrain, walking through beautiful green meadows, then climbing upward toward some lakes. The last few miles are a steep downward descent and my feet and legs are angry. I’m hungry. My shoes are worn out. My backpack is falling apart. I want to be done, if even just for today.
We finally arrive to the Highway 50 at around 7:30 pm, but we are unable to get a hold of Crazy Use-Lady to get a ride. It’s okay, because the trail has taught us to be adaptable. We walk to the highway and extend our thumbs. It doesn’t take long for a large truck to pull over. I hop into the passenger seat, and Lupine takes the back. Our driver seems sleepy, and I can see why. Every day he commutes to Sacramento for work. He works for a marijuana grower, but will soon be moving and having a shorter commute. I wonder if he just picked us up for some entertainment and to help keep himself awake.
When we arrive to South Lake Tahoe, he drops us off and we walk to a Thai food restaurant as the sun goes down. We eat outside then get a ride to a hostel, where we’ve made a reservation for tonight and tomorrow night. I also had a backpack shipped there, so I look forward to picking it up tomorrow.
As we enter the hostel, we walk by a computer room, with the door open to the warm evening air. Chef, our fellow hiking companion is there hunched over a book of sudoku puzzles. We greet him and he’s surprised to see us, not expecting us until tomorrow. We recount the story of Lupine’s Wild Ride, and he tells us about his recent travels as well. We haven’t seen him since Mammoth Lakes, so we have some catching up to do. Our other hiking companion, Sriracha has gone back to Utah for a few days to compete in a family golf tournament.
Chef plans to leave Tahoe tomorrow, and he now has an inflatable tube in his bag, which he’s planning to use in the rivers. Since we’ve been hiking with him, he has routinely talked about the Northern California town of Belden. The town is incredibly small, but it has a river running through it that Chef plans to float. I’m happy his dreams are in the process of coming true.
After parting ways with Chef for the evening Lupine and I walk to the local grocery store, buying fresh fruit and vegetables, our favorite foods when off trail. We also get some bread and hummus which we take back to our room and binge on. It feels good to be off trail for the night, eating real food, connecting with old acquaintances, and resting.
Tomorrow we have errands, new gear to buy, more food to fill our bags with.
But tonight, we sleep and just enjoy.